AMA Wire

Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012

Special Feature

Enhance patient-centered care using AMA health literacy tools

Enhance patient-centered care using AMA health literacy tools

Just 13 percent of U.S. adults have the necessary knowledge and skills to fully comprehend what they are told during their medical visits. Meanwhile, 89 million patients—one-third of all U.S. adults—struggle to follow medication instructions, understand patient handouts or complete insurance forms, according to a definitive health literacy study.

Consequently, low health literacy has been linked to poor health outcomes, including higher rates of hospitalization and underuse of preventive services. But there are simple ways physicians and their staff can overcome communication barriers to enhance patient care.

Several of those ways are available in the form of practical advice and tools from the AMA Foundation to help address health literacy needs in the physician practice. The foundation's popular Health Literacy Kit includes the following resources:

  • An in-depth manual for clinicians, which explains key risk factors for limited health literacy, tips for helping patients understand health care information, and behaviors that can improve communication.
  • A pocket-sized safety tip card for physicians, which serves as a quick reminder of how to prevent communication-related adverse events. Such events are estimated to cause 80 percent of medical errors.
  • A checklist for patients, which gives steps to prepare for a successful doctor's visit, including bringing medications, reporting changes in symptoms and asking questions.
  • An instructional video, which features conversations between physicians and patients about the challenges to care caused by low health literacy, patient communication needs and ways to overcome these barriers.

Now is an ideal time to focus on improving patient comprehension during office visits. This October, physicians throughout the world are engaging in activities to support patient-centered care in observance of Patient-Centered Care Awareness Month. A new bulk-order grant process gives physicians an opportunity to order free hard copies of the AMA Foundation's Health Literacy Kit, which can be shared with co-workers and colleagues.

Additionally, physicians in large group practices or hospitals can use data tools in the AMA's Communication Climate Assessment Toolkit to evaluate and improve their organization's ability to communicate with a diverse patient population.

Take advantage of these resources today to enhance patient-centered care in your practice.